UH NEWS Liberated Press


The UH NEWS Liberated Press and the
Student Revolution at the University of Hartford

by Benedict M. Holden

1968-69

First off, U of H came thru with a plan to recruit black students – ten each year with full scholarships and cash stipends through the work study program. Paul Copes, Paul Britto, W. Rap Bailey, Claudia Booker, Welton Johnson, Angelo Lewis, Ray Fudge, Sam Schley, Ewart Skinner et al. were indeed game-changers. World shakers.

The Student Faculty Association had a secure budget; we allocated $10,000 as a reserve/subsidy for the Concert Committee. Jack Hardy got Mark Persky to serve as an Assistant Editor, soon to be followed by Ewart Skinner as Associate Editor of the UH NEWS Liberated Press. Jim Diamond ran freshman orientation and then took over the Concert Committee. I booked Jefferson Airplane for two shows in October. The basement of one dorm became an Infirmary, open 8 am to 8 pm, GP with Wednesday office hours, and a GYN Resident with Friday office hours.

We all watched the riot in Chicago on TV. Jack Hardy and Mike Drouilhet organized a spontaneous demonstration on the driveway of John Bailey's home on Scarborough Street. There were cops hiding in the garage, cops out of sight in the back yard; and they had wired small explosive devices in the rose hedge across the front lawn.

WVIT-NBC 30 covered the protest – a hundred-plus angry souls. We covered the apron of the driveway and the sidewalk, and some drifted into the street. Jack spoke as did Mike. We never entered their property. Mrs. Bailey wanted a meet-and-speak with the kids, but the police would not allow it. Noisy, no hassles, the whole world is watching.

Without printing a single issue, Jack managed nicely to offend all the people who ran and owned the city of Hartford; this is where they lived.

The Freshman issue of the UH NEWS Liberated Press carried a long feature article on the methods of birth control. In 1969 providing such information to an unmarried woman was a crime... only the beginning.

Every new student endures orientation. We even had a dance Friday night. However, on Tuesday I had to give a welcoming speech to the new class. Perhaps it was Chicago, maybe it was the laughing kids. I read thru the speech at home: five minutes. Everyone says I shouted and it was over in two minutes. I'd been speeding for three months; I exploded loudly. In 10 words it was: "Get involved, get laid, get high, join the revolution"... nine words. One parent attending with daughter withdrew her from school.

I stood near the stage, fists clenched, growling a bit. Two petite young blonde girls stood several feet away. Looking, moving slowly. The smaller one jumped up, wrapped her legs around me and delivered the hardest, deepest, dirtiest kiss I ever had. She whispered in my ear, "I met this new guy Saturday; I'll be done with him soon. I'm gonna do you next." She climbed down and waved at her companion: "This is my best friend from band camp; we play flute; she wanted to meet you."

The friend – all of 4'10", motorcycle boots, jeans, a T-shirt, a vest, a man's suit jacket, and a hat pulled down half over her face – shook my hand and said her name was Ellsworth. I never did connect with the small one. (I should have said, "Hey, I have an office upstairs.") She hit on Michael Keane and eventually left school. Ellsworth wasn't Ellsworth; her name was Betsey {Elizabeth). I would know her for thirty-one years... and after twenty years he still grieves.

I took a little time to fly out to the SDS national office in Chicago and then on to a conference in Boulder, Colorado. I brought fifty copies of the Che Guevara issue of the UH NEWS Liberated Press with me. At least 50 times I heard the query, "This is the official school paper?" I was interrogated, interviewed twice by people asking about my thoughts on self defense, street fighting, armed conflict, did I own a gun, would I like to go to their unarmed combat class, am I ready to fight for change. I was not invited to join the Weather Underground, but they offered to take me under if I had need to run from the law. Had a phone number.

In fact I did own a .22 target rifle and my dad's .38 revolver, and I took time to go to Uncle Art's house in Vermont and shoot at targets. Doesn't do any good to own a gun if you can't hit what you shoot at.

In due consideration of the women's movement's stand that men be responsible for child care, we started a free baby-sitting service and encouraged male students to volunteer. Could have done better: volunteers, no kids; kids, no volunteers – we should have put someone in charge in a better location and bought some supplies. Imperfect effort, good idea – not well executed.

When I returned from Colorado, Jack had a hot one. Mary Mac, an employee in the finance office, had stolen a confidential draft of the university's projected budget for next year. We had long argued that we paid for everything and all the community support from business and industry was pandering. In truth not only did we pay for everything, but a $50,000 increase in the school's endowment came out of general income as well.

They fired Mary Mac on a Wednesday; that same afternoon she became an employee of the Student Faculty Association. It's not all pretty but you have to take care of people who put themselves out for you. I do wish she had been able to type a simple error-free letter – couldn't. Smart. She was a nice young girl from Collinsville... she fit, gave good advice, staff for our office.

The next morning I had to call Hector. I didn't know who else to call and we needed to make sure Mary got her paycheck. I decided to ignore her firing and just tell Hector it was like a change from one office to the SFA – same pay, same benefits. "Hector, please take care of the transfer."

Hector questioned that we had no budget-line for staff or operating expenses. I told him, "We do now. We made a thousand dollars on the Jefferson Airplane show and Homecoming is sold out. So we have some income and we allocated $10,000 for operations. I'm even going to the formal dance. Jack and I have filled up four tables too. Budget's balanced."

He took it, and our deal stuck. I cannot imagine what Dr. Woodruff's reaction was.

Hubert Humphrey's campaign came to Constitution Plaza. They tried to keep hippies and peaceniks off the plaza. No signs. He had a loud PA, but at least half the crowd was shouting and screaming at him. He was pale and seemed confused.

I think Humphrey expected a friendly crowd; he did not get one. He looked off his pace, and he cut his speech short. The UH NEWS Liberated Press endorsed Humphrey for President in a tepid editorial with the observation, "Probably better than Nixon."

Nixon campaigned at a rally in the State Armory in a controlled environment and was heckled. An angry crowd of thousands showed up outside to wish him a speedy departure.

Homecoming was a big thing for Greek life. It was on-campus for the first time with a Saturday-night dance and a concert Sunday with Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. Jack and I brought a crowd – four tables full. It represented a big part of the social integration policy. You are us; we are you. The lovely Ellsworth/Betsey was my prom date; we even danced. She wore a dress. She had a bit too much to drink, and after the dance we went up to our offices in the student center, where she promptly lost her supper all over the floor. I cleaned it up.

Jack had asked John Zanzal to draw a cartoon of someone giving the bird, the one-finger salute. Just a close-up of the hand with the finger morphed into another member of the male anatomy. He had a banner for the cartoon: "The administration." Well, Tuesday night at paste-up... Tuesday nights were generally crazy. The West Hartford News had all these graphics and photo books with art screened for photo offset, there were all these toothy photos of Dick Nixon between those ironic columns. Someone cut out Nixon's face and the cartoon fit in place. They didn't call him "Prick Nixon" for nothing.

Group insanity prevailed. I think everyone handled it. "Gosh, it's ugly, isn't it?" Well, no uglier than the person whose erection portrait we had. Jack asked around: "Can we do it?" He asked me, the staff had agreed. I asked if he wanted it – wanted! He said, "Yeah." So I gathered the staff in a circle and said, "Jack said yes. I'm the publisher. I back him up. And I say we print it."

Jack, John Zanzal, and I were all arrested on a Friday night a couple weeks later and charged with criminal libel and obscenity. Criminal Libel was a law not used since the 1870s. The Hartford Courant never said a nice thing about us, the movement, concerts, anything. However, even a mighty conservative paper gets the issue of freedom of the press. They slimed the prosecutors in their coverage of the arrests. Any attack on a free press could be an attack on them.

When Kevin Fahey took the job of Program Coordinator in the Student Services office he was replaced by Barbara Ally as vice president. Jim Carter served as treasurer and Jeanie Hunter was our secretary. The general manner in which things went thru the SFA and the SA involved Monday afternoon's meeting of the Executive Board followed by Tuesday morning's meeting of the Senate to approve (or not) the decisions of the EB, and then deal with other stuff, old and new business. This was a united-front government based on consensus.

In one meeting with Hector I raised the question of WWUH, the student radio station. They had not applied to be an approved student activity/organization, had no set of by-laws, and did not elect a student general manager. I noted that we had changed the name of our Publications Commission to the Communications Commission, and that the general manager for WWUH would be approved by the ComCom. He pointed out that the FCC had the university as the operator, and that the school had technical and legal responsibilities.

I reminded him that the loan document for the Student Center from HUD contained the provision that only student activities and services were permitted in the building. We were the state's officially appointed agency to approve student clubs. They called it a "student radio station" – and, if so, they were ours, and if they were not a student activity then they could move the station to the public relations building. I further offered to pay the station's operating costs while the university could continue to pay for the technical staff.

Within a month the student club part of the radio station applied to be recognized; and we did pay about $10,000 a year in operating costs.

Dean Addley asked me to attend a Student Life Committee meeting to discuss the food service. I was introduced to a very nice, friendly, professional, mid-thirties black man from Ogden Foods as "General Holden" in the guerilla war against the existing cafeteria operator. I said, "I get a lot of blame or credit for things I don't do. But I've seen it. They stack pre-made and plastic-wrapped grinders right next to the door; the lights go out and they all disappear in a minute. They ought to have fresh-made sandwiches, dorm students should be able to trade 'the meal' for soup and sandwich or a salad and sandwich." Ogden offered to step in on two-three days' notice and pay for the missing knives, forks, and spoons.

The old operator had been unhappy since the start of the year. The students had been unhappy about the quality, quantity, and cost since the first year. Not sure on the date... but we gave the old guys notice on a Friday, and Ogden started on the next Monday. They were also nice enough to give hospitality cards to Jack, the GM of WWUH, and me (as well as the UHa administration) so that we could entertain guests, etc.

Bice Clemow, a member of the Board of Regents and owner of the West Hartford News, was the printer of the UH NEWS Liberated Press. Prior to Christmas he warned me, "The university is looking for a reason to move against the paper. I read every word. I don't agree with anything, but you have made me laugh. I watch you work. You are a good publisher. I will continue to print your paper, regardless of what they say, as long as you can pay me."

Following our first Executive Board meeting of the year I asked everyone to stay. "This may be illegal, we may certainly break our deal with administration. Go now, or stay... but this will be a secret meeting." And I told them of Bice Clemow's warning and his promise.

There was a heated discussion. Jim Carter, a junior from the business school, was a straight non-smoker and a rock. Barbara Ally, a junior from Ed, was angry: "They arrested you, you're the publisher." And Jeanie from Hartt, the most conservative of all said, "No they can't do it; it's ours."

We decided unanimously to make cash deposits to the business office more slowly. Not put anything south, but create a war chest of up to $3,000 (enough to publish the paper for a month)... it was cash flow from concert sales, it just flowed a little slower.

Providential. Only a few weeks later the UH NEWS Liberated Press printed the front and back covers of the John Lennon - Yoko Ono album Two Virgins. Full frontal nudity, actually front and back. I usually went to paste-up on Tuesday nights, but I never saw it.

Dean Sweeney had been our favorite history professor. He was a glorious liberal Democrat. They made him Dean of Student Affairs following my election and Jack's issue of The Challenge with "Radicalism" across the front page. He had tenure; coulda said no. Liberals are nice but spineless.

And Dean Sweeney suspended the UH NEWS Liberated Press. Jack made an effort to negotiate with him. The SFA Senate met the next day, mad as hell.

Even that Engineering rep who hated me asked, "They arrested you as publisher, how can he suspend?" The Senate voted unanimously that the SFA was responsible for the UH NEWS Liberated Press, I was its publisher, and the paper was not suspended.

There was a meeting in the lounge: TV cameras, good crowd. They turned on the TV lights as I got there. I pulled Jack to the side and said, "You don't have to speak. There is no freedom of the press issue. You have it. You are not suspended, just keep going."

I didn't wait for the TV lights to get hot; I was hot enough, and I stepped up to the microphones. "The UH NEWS Liberated Press is not suspended. The SFA Senate this morning has unanimously affirmed its authority over our publications. Dr. Sweeney has exceeded his powers. We have made provisions to guarantee our ability to print the paper. You may be sure your copy of the next issue will be here on time Wednesday. I am its publisher; the paper is not suspended."

I walked over to North House to talk to Hector. I had never just unloaded on him previously. "Sweeney is done. He blew it. I know he's supposed to be our baby-sitter. He's a snake – suspending the paper. He has not the power. Delusional. He's persona non grata to everyone in the SFA. I won't ever speak to him again – not hello, good-bye, have a nice day, burn baby burn. He's dead – never, not ever – not one word. And the paper is not suspended." Didn't shake his hand, didn't even sit, and I turned and walked out.

Sweeney never retracted his suspension. He was ignored.

Toward the end of February, Helen Watson had a gig at a coffeehouse in Meriden on a Saturday night. She and Suzan Storms rode down on the train with plans to return about midnight by rail. It started to snow and the weather-girl on TV said blizzard. I drove to Meriden with Bill Walach or Mike Lyster – not sure who – to pick up the girls. After Helen's second set we all headed back to the Submarine.

It was a snow party, seven-eight of us. First thing Sunday morning with heavy snow still falling, I called a friend down on Sigourney Street and had two ounces of pot delivered in a blizzard on credit. A good time was had by all. Bill cooked something, Mike played every song ever written in C. I don't really remember all too much... percussion gin rummy. By Tuesday we were out of weed and several of us decided to hitchhike to campus because we couldn't move the cars. We walked a fair distance before being picked up by who else? Dean Addley.

The Ogden manager was waiting at the campus center. He and Dean Addley asked if we could put together a volunteer cook crew to make dinner. The kids in the dorms hadn't had a meal since Saturday night. Made a couple calls and among others found four/five sorority sisters to run the bake shop and make desserts.

I cooked the baked ham and made a sauce with marmalade, brown sugar, and pineapple juice. Someone made prefab scalloped potatoes (in a box) and green beans enough to feed four hundred.

The girls in the little bake shop had boxes of brownie mix. Two of them asked me very quietly if they could make marijuana brownies. I'm easily led astray. "Go to the dorms and take up a collection; see what we can do." They had two trays done of straight brownies and four trays of Alice B. Toklas ones (about 80 per tray). I said, "We need more; which dorms did you hit?" Answer: "Just the girls' dorms"... "OK, kids, go back, hit the boys' dorms and tell 'em it's for me."

Some of the last trays were a little ugly. The weed didn't get strained so it was all seeds and stems too. Five more trays. The girls put Cool Whip on top of the "good" brownies and left the straight ones bare. We didn't make a tray of brownies, we made about 700 of them, on plates, topped with Cool Whip, and served them to the whole school.

Dean Addley figured out the answer as he was asking why some of the brownies were undecorated. After dinner he took six and a coke on a tray and sat in the cafeteria for a while spitting out seeds just like the rest of us. Not a soul complained. (And yes, I do remember the bake-shop girls' names, but one is a school principal and one is on a school board. That secret is safe.)

Jack and I talked early in the spring. We were really pissed about the court stuff – just can't get up and move on. So we decided we'd both run again for another year. Got us arrested, give it back double.

In the UH NEWS Liberated Press you may read that Julian Bond spoke to a large audience in March. I was hurt and embareassed to learn that our precious few black students had no chance to meet and talk with him. When you have the co­chair of SNCC on campus you ought to make provisions. They had a reception for the Program Council folks but no black students were invited. Sad... Mad.

Jim Diamond and our Concert Committee scored a huge coup in April with a show by Leonard Cohen. He did three gigs in a weekend with Bob Dylan's studio band: Bob Johnston on organ, Bubba Fowler, John Hall and Charlie Daniels on guitars, two women singers ("The Sisters of Mercy"), and the Nashville rhythm crew. It was an artistic and financial success. Jerry Jeff Walker and Rotary Connection in February and Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention on Mother's Day finished the music end of the year.

In late April, two years after Norman Thomas' hellfire speech and John Robinson standing on a cafeteria table to say the "world has changed," we had a rally for students to hear from SFA candidates.

I stood up as the last speaker. Before I could say a word the door flew open and seven members of the Black Panther Party – all in the leather jackets and berets – marched into the room in formation. Halted. Silence. "The Black Panther Party endorses the re-election of Ben Holden." I said, "Thank you." Don't think I said another word. Meeting over.

As you know, Jack and I won.

In June there was a crisis. Chris Butler's Yearbox project went $16,000 over budget because of all the special effects and extras. The single-page insert with photos all in negative cost more than $1,500 for just one page. Dean Addley and I met with the printer about the bill. Damn. Could have killed us; but our concert series had a profit of about $11,000 for the year and the UH NEWS Liberated Press carried approximately $7,000 in advertising. So I paid the bill in full and bit the bullet. Christine Marie Lessing Butler, grrrrrr. But I still love you. Great work.

In addition to being Publisher and Business Manager for the UH NEWS Liberated Press and running a revolutionary united-front government – if you're all like legit and stuff, well, you gotta deal with "them."

Jefferson Airplane was the second big event in our new gym. Their contract called for 135 amps of power delivered to the stage area. The gym was built with a total of 90 amps of service to the whole structure. So they ran another line and admitted they had underestimated the need. However, they spent $5,000 and most politely asked if we would/could pay a quarter of the cost. Hector... anything I could do to make him happy. I said yup, I'll pay it. $1,250... but this isn't a "concert" cost, it's on the administration line.

I had a meeting with Hector and Arch Woodruff about false fire alarms in the dorms. "Can you make this stop? There have been more than a dozen, and the police want to put undercover officers in the dorms to catch this guy." Um, I didn't even know it was a problem. They suggested that guys pulled the alarms to get the girls out on the sidewalk in their night clothes and undies. (Old men... no one wore pajamas, and a lot of girls don't wear a lot of underwear.) "We appreciate your concerns about undercover cops in the dorms. This has to stop."

I had four or five small discussions in the girls' dorms. "You all know any guy crazy enough? What's happening here?" One girl made a comment about how pretty the firemen were when they took their coats off and stood around in T-shirts while putting their gear away. I talked about cops, and how pissed they were, and said, "It's just got to stop."

For a couple years the Hartford Police patrolled the U of H campus. They would park a couple cars down at the entrance next to Annie Fisher School and hassle black kids walking onto campus. They also did two-car, 5-mile-per-hour, bumper-to-bumper patrol rides thru campus... a slow crawl. By the spring of 1969 you could find 400-500-800-1000-person parties on the campus-center lawn: many joints being passed, Boone's Farm Apple Wine, and malt brews. The numbers of participants seemed to grow like a lawn greening up in the spring.

Retired State Police Lieutenant Frank Shea was our head of security. Following meetings with the Student Life Committee he informed the Hartford Police that their actions were provocative and represented a safety consideration for the cops. Students didn't like the cops watching them. They stopped.

We had another security problem. Young women walking back to the dorms were being hassled and groped by some guy near the bridge and along the Hog River stream. We had, by the way, hired new, student-friendlier, and trained security guards to do more than check doors and issue parking tickets. One evening guard was assigned to walk the area from the Art School to the bridge and through the dorms, and the patrol guy had to park in the Art lot each swing through the property. The groper went away.

We did invite the Hartford Police to park two cars at the back of the parking lots near the gymnasium when we had big concerts. Windows up, lights on, stay in the cars unless all heck breaks loose.

Unarmed security, public service, safety officers remained the rule at the University of Hartford until 2014.

Next: Moratorium


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